Cigna announces goal to reduce drug overdoses by 25 percent in key areas

Cigna announces goal to reduce drug overdoses by 25 percent in key areas
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Cigna, one of the country’s largest health insurers, announced Thursday an initiative to reduce drug overdoses 25 percent by 2021 in certain communities hit by the opioid epidemic.

The effort will focus initially on four states — Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia — as well as the metropolitan areas of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Cigna picked communities where a large number of their consumers reside — and where higher-than-average rates of drug overdoses are occurring.

“Despite all the efforts that we’ve made and the success we’ve had in improving the appropriateness of opioid prescribing that there’s still a huge issue in all of our communities with opioid overdoses,”  Dr. Doug Nemecek, the company’s chief medical officer for behavioral health, told The Hill.

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Cigna plans to use predictive analytics to identify customers who are at the highest risk for an opioid overdose and develop partnerships in those areas to help combat the opioid epidemic, Nemecek said.

When the insurer identifies a person at risk of an overdose, the company’s licensed clinicians reach out. Then, they can provide education on overdose risk factors, perform assessments on their health, identify any risks for mental health and substance use disorders that might require additional care, make referrals and more.

“Lots of different steps we take when we do engage with a customer to help them understand their risks, understand how to take care of themselves, understand how to talk to their doctors about making sure they get all the care and support that they need,” Nemecek said.

In March, Cigna announced it had reduced the amount of opioids its customers used by 25 percent one year earlier than its original goal.

In D.C., the  Trump administration and Congress are grappling with how to curb the epidemic contributing to an estimated 115 American deaths per day.

Over the past two weeks on Capitol Hill, the House has passed over 50 bills aimed at combating the epidemic; some experts say even more work is needed to truly stem the tide of the nation’s scourge of overdose deaths.